Province opens class-size discussions as teachers demand changes

  • May. 9, 2011 12:00 p.m.

The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association has not ruled out job action, though its president says the province is taking steps in the right direction.

The government has agreed to negotiate class size and composition with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation over the next year.

“We need an immediate increase in funding and we need some commitment that we will try and have a resolution in place by the fall of 2011,” said Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

Finance Minister George Abbott announced Thursday that the province won’t appeal last month’s B.C. Supreme Court ruling that found the 2001 removal of class size and composition legislation unconstitutional.

Paul Straszak, president of the Public Sector Employers’ Council, will lead the initial phase of consultation, which will also assess special needs support in public schools.

Meanwhile, legislation around class size limits remains unchanged.

“We must be thoughtful and thorough in our approach,” Abbott said. “At the same time, we recognize that a prompt resolution is in the best interests of all those affected – teachers, students, parents and everyone with a stake in this province’s education system.”

Local and provincial teachers’ associations have called on the B.C. government to immediately infuse the 2011-12 education budget with $275 million, which is the amount the Ministry of Education expected to save annually when class size restrictions were lifted in 2001.

“Teachers are certainly expecting some improvements in terms of salary benefit and prep time,” Ehrcke added. “Whether those items get resolved by the fall, it’s not looking positive at this time.”

The BCTF’s current contract expires at the end of June. It was the first-ever negotiated contract with B.C.’s 40,000 teachers after a series of contracts were imposed by NDP and B.C. Liberal governments.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

-with files from Tom Fletcher